P2P dangers hidden in the cloud
The choice to invest in software as a service can represent clouded judgement that can cost you dearly.
It was always said that you’d never be fired for choosing IBM. In the P2P world, the same could be said of a wide range of cloud platforms that promise “best practice” out of the box – except it isn’t true. One of the surest ways to get yourself in the spotlight for the wrong reasons when selecting a P2P platform is reach for a purchase to pay panacea.
Cloud has become an easy choice to make. What could be wrong with selecting a solution backed by a strong, credible brand that promise to deliver a set of practices based on the experience of many hundreds of clients in a wide variety of industries. The chances of your company knowing better than the combined wisdom of some of the biggest P2P players are remote. 9 times out of 10, your own business’ peculiarities can be accommodated by customisation and in the relatively rare event when it cannot, adopting so called “best practice” is an easy sell to internal stakeholders. Or so goes the sales pitch. Regrettably, the reality of implementing cloud software into a mature business is not so easy.
Each industry has its own rules, regulations and conventions and each enterprise within it has its own unique attributes. These idiosyncrasies manifest themselves in the form of highly specialised business processes which are themselves embedded in systems and culture that is not easy to change. Indeed, change can be constrained so tightly that cloud solutions designed to meet a wide variety of similar needs across many disparate customers is virtually impossible. In these circumstances, unique system designs are required and in the case of off-the-peg software – that means customisation.
And it can be difficult to predict the extent of this issue. If the stakeholders that specify business requirements have spent their careers within a single organisation or industry, they often cannot see where local custom ends and generic best practice starts. Some of the difficulties are only identified during implementation.
“But”, I hear you say (I hear myself say it too), “P2P is a generic process especially when it comes to indirects”. This is absolutely true and the foundation of the belief that best practice out of the box will solve everything. It’s the purchasing processes of direct goods that generally leads to the company or industry specific complexities and these business processes are nearly always seen as distinct from the processes required for buying operational goods and services like stationery and office equipment. So, for indirects at least, there isn’t much of an issue – is there?
And this is seriously flawed logic. The reality is that the line between direct and indirect is blurred. In highly regulated industries, the regulators don’t see any distinction and what seems like unnecessarily complex processes applied to indirect spend is simply not negotiable for some organisations.
Is choosing cloud P2P software a career limiting move? Of course not. Cloud has revolutionised enterprise software and P2P is the perfect application for it. P2P out of the box may not always be achievable but, like “best practice” it is a worthy aspiration.
The choice – and more importantly the implementation – of cloud software is never as simple as it’s often sold and there’s a few key points to look out for:
When selecting a P2P solution focusing on indirect spend, pay attention to the industry experience of your solution provider – it may be less important compared to a direct spend solution but it is still relevant.
The choice of implementation partner for your solution is at least as important to the success of your project as the choice of software. A strong partner will be able to mould a generic cloud service into something that fits like a glove.
Push back at business requirements but only so far – question conventional wisdom and go for standard generic processes wherever possible but recognise that some conventions are harder to change than the software.
Accept that while P2P solutions are almost infinitely configurable, there is a limit and customisations (as opposed to configuration changes) are not possible. Consider customisations outside of the cloud solution but factor in the ongoing maintenance requirement of customisations to keep them in line with upgrades.